China in the United Nations

7 Feb


Again, it’s an article I came across while searching something else on Google. I’m not going to look at the Chinese diplomat the reporter interviewed then. I want to look at the role and tactics that China has played in the UN.

It was only in 1971 that the People’s Republic of China supplanted Taiwan as the representative of China in the United Nations. During the remaining years of the cold war, the hermetic Communist regime was generally content to follow the lead of the Soviet Union. Little changed even after the fall of the Berlin Wall: China’s permanent representative in the early 90’s, Li Daoyu, was known around the U.N. as Ambassador Look Out the Window. The Chinese stirred to action only in order to block peacekeeping missions to countries that had been so foolish as to recognize Taiwan.

Beijing sleeps no longer. The astonishing growth of China’s economy has made it a global force, and the accompanying need for resources has pushed it to forge new ties throughout Asia, Africa and Latin America. The old revolutionary ardor is gone, and China surveys the world with increasing pragmatism and confidence. China is now a status quo power — “an exporter of good will and consumer durables instead of revolution and weapons,” as David Shambaugh, a China scholar at George Washington University, remarked in a recent essay. Unlike the United States and the West generally, China views the current global situation as fundamentally benign and malleable — a setting conducive to diplomacy.

But the game the Chinese play virtually ensures the U.N.’s regular failure in the face of humanitarian crisis. Indeed, the combination of Wang’s deft diplomacy and China’s willingness to defend nations it does business with from allegations of even the grossest abuse has made a mockery of all the pious exclamations of “never again” that came in the wake of the Security Council’s passive response to Rwanda’s genocide in 1994. The most notorious example of China’s new activism in this regard is Darfur. While none of the major powers, with the intermittent exception of the United States, have shown any appetite for robust action to protect the people of this Sudanese province from the atrocities visited upon them by the government and its proxy force, known as janjaweed, the Chinese, who buy much of the oil Sudan exports, have appointed themselves Khartoum’s chief protector. In the summer of 2004, after Congress had declared the ruthless assault on unarmed villagers “genocide,” China vowed to veto an American resolution threatening (not even imposing) sanctions against Khartoum.

Several years ago, China joined India in principled repudiation of the chlorofluorocarbon reductions mandated by the Montreal Protocol. But when the international community offered to pay for the technology needed to reduce emissions, China decided that global regulation of pollution did not, in fact, constitute a violation of national sovereignty, leaving the Indians all alone in their principled opposition. On Darfur, as well, China has seen the virtue of bending before the wind, if ever so slightly. As the hopelessly overmatched troops of the African Union failed to stem atrocities throughout 2005, China (along with Russia) continued to block a resolution authorizing a U.N. peacekeeping force. Then this past May, the Sudanese regime and one of the rebel armies signed a cease-fire pact, increasing the pressure for U.N. intervention. China’s position was looking increasingly untenable. And so Beijing agreed to withhold its veto from — though not actually endorse — a resolution authorizing a U.N. military-planning mission.

China plainly wishes to join the international community on its own terms. The People’s Republic is a singular entity, a world-class power almost wholly preoccupied with harnessing its internal energies and preventing domestic conflict. Unlike Russia, for example, China has little wish to use the power at its disposal, save to establish a harmonious environment for its “peaceful rise.” And in any case, China has progressed so rapidly from an insular and impoverished state to a confident and immensely influential one that it has not had time to figure out what to do with its power, or even fully to acknowledge it. China thus cares a very great deal about matters of little concern in the West — “territorial integrity,” for example — and very little about the burning issues in Washington, London and Paris. China has, for example, played almost no affirmative role in the reform debate that has exercised the U.N. over the last year. China is a member of the bloc of developing nations known as the Group of 77 — the group’s formal name is “the G77 plus China,” even though the 77 have grown to 131 — and it shares the organization’s view that the U.N. should pay more attention to economic and social issues and less to matters of peace and security. But even on these questions, according to Ambassador Menon of Singapore, “They were basically just going with the tide.”

The one issue that roused China to fury was Japan’s bid for permanent membership on the Security Council. China’s all-hands-on-deck mobilization was a reminder that propriety goes out the window on matters China deems to be of national interest, just as had been the case a decade earlier when it openly tried to kill peacekeeping missions in Guatemala, Haiti and Macedonia to punish those countries for their dealings with Taiwan. The merits were plainly not on China’s side. No other country so self-evidently belongs on the council as Japan, which pays 19 percent of the U.N.’s budget, slightly below the U.S. assessment. (China pays 2 percent, and Russia 1 percent.) But Japan is China’s chief competitor in Asia, as well as America’s staunchest ally in the region.

Even more important, though, is China’s deep sense of historical grievance over Japan’s notorious invasion of Nanking in 1937 and its aggression in World War II. Wang explained to me that Japan’s wealth and generosity could not erase this blot: “The current five has been selected not because of their economic power but because of the role they played during the Second World War. China played an important role, and also we didn’t occupy other people’s territory” — unlike you-know-who. (It seemed too niggling to point out that the regime that had fought with the Allies now held sway in Taipei, not Beijing.)


The interview went on. I just pasted the excerpt related with the role in the UN that China has played. It’s been proved right in the UN that whoever has the power has a say. Great powers in the world buy what China says for its surging economic power, not only militarily as it used to be. Also, China likes to punch underweight, as pointed out in the end of the article, and Taiwan is apparently one of the underweights that China has constantly punched! =’=



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